Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama: Why I am Proud of Him


Why I am proud of President Obama
by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I recall endorsing Barack Obama back when it was simply wishful thinking to hope for a Black President. During a CNN appearance over a year ago, I mentioned that his backing by Oprah Winfrey would change Obama from being “Hillary Clinton’s black baby brother” into a man who could run one of the most significant presidential campaigns in American history. This is one of the few times when I enjoy being able to say, “I told you so.”

President Obama is, quite simply, the Tiger Woods of American politics: another Black man of mixed heritage, who used the power of tremendous focus, creativity, intelligence and preparation to do the impossible. Like his counterpart Tiger Woods (who happens to be a Republican), Obama went into the domain of White males and dominated in ways that simply transcended his chosen field. Similar to the way that Tiger’s greatness attracted droves of fans who’d never cared much about golf, Obama brought in millions of voters who would never have cared much about a presidential election.

I am proud of Barack Obama for the way he ran his campaign. His amazing campaign strategy has changed the face of American politics for the next 100 years. He dismantled the “Death Star Clinton Regime” through the use of innovative, daring and powerful tactics, a sound choice of advisors and lots of good old fashioned intelligence.

I am proud of Barack Obama for liberating our minds. For the first time in quite a while, millions of Black boys had a chance to see an intelligent Black man consistently profiled in “mainstream” media. This man showed our kids that you can be a “balla” without dribbling a basketball and a major “playa” without being played. Greatness is not achieved with a football, a hand gun or a microphone; it is achieved with a textbook, a college diploma and a sound economic plan.

I was proud of Barack Obama long before he became our president. I don’t need validation from the rest of America to feel good about who we are as a people. We were just as great, just as strong, just as accomplished and just as meaningful on November 3 as we are right now. The presidential election is essentially a popularity contest which leads to uncomfortable tradeoffs and “deals with the devil” that reduce the glitter of addictive political gold. The respect I give Barack Obama for raising hundreds of millions of dollars to get access to the White House is matched by the respect I give Dr. Julianne Malveaux for raising tens of millions of dollars to educate young Black women at Bennett College. Being President of the United States is not what makes Barack Obama a great man: He is a great man because he is a great man.

I am proud of Barack Obama for marrying Michelle, who served as one of my primary reasons for trusting him. I have a hard time imagining a man who can sleep with Michelle Obama every night and not be influenced by her beautiful mind. Michelle Obama is not a “buppy” soccer mom, Stepford Wife, or wannabe Barbara Bush. Michelle is a super sharp and relentless “sistuh girl”, who demands the most of her African American husband. She makes the first family as beautiful as Barack Obama makes it strong.

I am proud of Barack Obama for his willingness to take his life and career into the lion’s den. He inherits a terrible economy, an unjust war, a sickening healthcare system and an educational system which cripples our children for life. Like the first Black football coaches in the NCAA, Obama has been granted the reigns of a team with a serious losing record. Furthermore, he must bend and twist to satisfy citizens of the same country that was na├»ve enough to consider mediocre characters like George Bush and Sarah Palin to possibly run our great nation. I sincerely wish Obama the best as he attacks these problems, and I hope that this brilliant Black man with the middle name “Hussein” can negotiate the balance between our quest for a better world and America’s consistent commitment to anti-intellectualism.

As proud as I am of President Obama, I am also proud of America for showing that it has the ability to choose the right person for the job, instead of the right WHITE person for the job. By choosing Obama, we have shown our capacity for fairness, and how much progress we’ve made to overcome some of our racial demons of the past. The easiest thing to do, however, is to think that having a Black president is going to change the lives of most Black people. The reality is that BLACK PEOPLE THEMSELVES are going to change the lives of Black people and if we do not embrace the power of financial independence and unity, we will simply remain perpetual socio-economic slaves in the domain of a new overseer. The same way America rolled back the political gains of the 1960s, the Washington-based rewards of the new millennium could be just as fleeting.

President Obama did his job, now it’s time for us to do ours. Good luck over the next 4 years.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about College”. He does regular commentary in national media, including CNN, BET, ESPN and CBS. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.